The NCAAB 2021 season is in the midst of significant upheaval brought on by the catalyzing effect of the coronavirus pandemic that turned 2020 upside down for all major sporting leagues around the world. In a bid to adapt to the various pandemic mandates implanted nationally, the college basketball is undergoing wholesale changes like never before. From teams having to swap conferences and transfer windows extending to coaches coming and going for various reasons, the future is uncertain in many cases.
As the college basketball season is set to take on a different look, it’s likely going to bring a whole set of challenges. Those coaches that are effectively “on the hot seat” may be the most affected as navigating through the unknown will certainly test their mettle and the quality of their decision-making in what may be effectively their last chance to crack it in the league.
Here are some of the head coaches that may be on their last leg heading into the 2021-22 college basketball season.
High Point head coach Tubby Smith has been in the job since 2018 but after his first season showed a measure of promise behind a 16-15 mark and a fifth-place finish in the Big South, there’s been nothing to write home about since. In fact, the Panthers took a considerable step back by producing back-to-back nine-win seasons in the next two years. Most recently, they stepped back further behind a subpar 6-11 mark and an eighth-place finish in their last lap around the college basketball circuit.
It’s no secret that the bonhomie is wearing thin with Tubby Smith and if the Panthers don’t show marked improvement in the upcoming season he may be shown the exit sign from his alma mater sooner than later. Consider the fact that John-Michael Wright, the team’s lead scorer, has transferred out of High Point, it’s hard to imagine how Smith can deliver on his mandate at all.
Although Mike Brey has enjoyed a storied career with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the last few years have been marked with increasing heavy disappointment and the last few years have seen his Fighting Irish hit a new nadir. Neither the 2018-19 nor the 2020-21 season resulted in postseason action, not to mention both resulted in bottom-three finishes in the ACC as well.
Some allowances for their most recent disappointing season can be found perhaps in the challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. That might give Brey some reprieve for the upcoming term given his history with the college. Additionally, the Fighting Irish did face stiff opponents on the schedule, some of which were nationally ranked at some point or other in the season.
And yet, one has to consider sport is a business even at the college level. How much longer can the school’s administration tolerate disappointment and make allowances for the lack of postseason success or even action. Inasmuch as Brey may not rank amongst the top college basketball picks to get the sack, surprises have occurred before. Thus, it wouldn’t be a shocker if he did get the boot if the negative trend spills forward into the upcoming season.
Although Dooley’s current stint with the East Carolina Pirates is short, it hasn’t taken long for the embattled head coach to fall into the hot seat according to oddsmakers. Underscoring his bleak outlook is the fact that the Pirates are coming off a subpar campaign which also happens to mark a career worst season for Dooley. The Pirates finished 2-8 in the conference and took the dubious honour of clinching last place.
Dooley arrived in East Carolina after gaining impressive results with Florida Gulf Coast. During his five-year tenure there, he led FCGU to 114 wins and five postseason bids. So far, he hasn’t even whiffed at that kind of success. Instead, his Pirates have sunk faster than the Titanic into the basement of the AAC.
Not surprisingly, the offseason has seen a veritable diaspora as six different players have taken transfers out of East Carolina. You might say they’ve jumped ship before it’s too late, including rising star Jaydon Gardner who has hightailed out of the building. Dooley is bringing in at least six freshmen to fill the void that the departures have created, but it remains to be seen how those additions will gel and whether the Pirates will improve as a result. If they don’t Dooley’s days may be numbered. He may only be entering his fourth year in his second stint with the college, but there’s no substitute for success.
Arguably, no head coach is sitting on a hotter seat than Bruce Weber who has been in charge of the Kansas State Wildcats for 10 seasons with little to show for his tenure that counts save for one bright run in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight in 2018. Worse yet, the last few NCAAB seasons have been simply atrocious as the Wildcats have nosedived into the bottom of the Big 12 standings. The 2019-20 campaign resulted in a woeful 3-15 finish and last place in the conference, setting a new nadir for the school. Equally, last year was hardly any better with a 4-14 finish in league action and a 9-20 mark overall.
Finding success in college basketball is no mean feat for any coach, but having to climb out of the Big 12’s basement when the conference just sent seven teams into the NCAA Tournament, including the national champions the Baylor Bears is a gigantic task. However, that’s Weber’s mandate if he’s to keep his position as the head coach of the Wildcats – a hold that must be slim at best if the odds were any indication.